GERMANY - Axel Benkner, chief executive of Deutsche Bank's retail fund firm DWS and the de-facto number two in the bank's global asset management business, has decided to step down, IPE has learned.

IPE understands Benkner has asked the DWS supervisory board to relieve him of his duties when it meets next week. He is to take an as yet unspecified role at DWS. A spokesman for DWS in Frankfurt declined to comment.

The revelation contrasts with German news reports today indicating the board was planning to oust Benkner.

According to the reports, Benkner's resignation stems from differences over future strategy between himself and Kevin Parker, board member at Deutsche who heads its global asset management business. Parker also chairs DWS supervisory board.

The reports added that possible successors to Benkner were Axel Schwarzer, head of DWS's US fund business (formerly Scudder) in New York and Klaus Kaldemorgen, global head of equities for DWS and Deutsche Asset Management in Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, well-placed sources in Frankfurt said they felt Benkner's resignation had more to do with politics than anything else. "Benkner is a hands-on kind of guy and has been very successful with DWS. He is not, however, an operator like Parker. Parker, for example, has the ear of Josef Ackermann (Detusche Bank's CEO)," the sources said.

Indeed, while Deutsche said in late 2004 it would centralise asset management in Frankfurt, parallel power structures have emerged in Frankfurt and New York. The decision was made following the collapse of DeAM in the UK and the related resignation of Paul Manduca as head of DeAM in Europe.

Benkner succeeded Manduca and in March 2005 also became head of DeAM's global securities business, making him effectively Parker's second-in-command.

Frankfurt's position in Deutsche's asset management business was further strengthened last July, when Kaldemorgen became global head of equities and Heinz Fesser became global head of fixed income.

But Parker has also been beefing up the US operations of DeAM and DWS. In March 2005, Schwarzer joined Parker in New York as head of Scudder. He reports directly to Parker.

Last February, the New York office gained Roelfien Kuijpers who was named global head of DeAM's institutional business. She also reports to Parker.

Then earlier this month, Parker and Kuijpers hired Susan Small as new global head of consultant relations at Deutsche Asset Management (DeAM). Based in Chicago, Small reports to Kuijpers.